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President Joe Biden departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., March 13, 2021.

President Joe Biden departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., on March 13, 2021.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

Democrats and Republicans agree Biden is Catholic. But they still see his faith differently

While both Democrats and Republicans say that President Joe Biden is Catholic, the partisan divide emerges when asked just how religious Biden is. Most Americans know less about Vice President Kamala Harris’ spiritual life

SHARE Democrats and Republicans agree Biden is Catholic. But they still see his faith differently
SHARE Democrats and Republicans agree Biden is Catholic. But they still see his faith differently

There aren’t a lot of things Democrats and Republicans agree on these days, but most members of each party do say President Joe Biden is Catholic. They differ greatly, however, on just how Catholic he is, according to a new study from the Pew research Center based in Washington, D.C.

The survey shows that 63% of Democrats and independents who lean left describe Biden as Catholic. Fifty-five percent of Republicans and those who lean right say the same.

In general, Americans today are more likely to view the president as a man of faith than they were a year ago. In February 2020, 55% of U.S. adults said Biden was “very” or “somewhat” religious. Today, that number stands at 64%.

Part of what drove the change was a notable bump in the share of Democrats who feel Biden is “very” religious, researchers note. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats overall believe he’s at least “somewhat” religious.

Although most Republicans say Biden is Catholic, members of this party remain more likely than their more liberal counterparts to be skeptical of the depth of the president’s faith. Sixty-three percent of Republicans think Biden is “not too religious” or “not at all religious,” and a handful of conservative respondents spontaneously remarked that he is a “fake Catholic” or “Catholic in name only,” Pew reports.

Democrats and Republicans also disagree about whether or not Biden references his faith as frequently as he should. While 79% of Democrats feel that Biden mentions his faith and prayer “about the right amount,” only 42% of Republicans thought the same thing. While that might suggest that Republicans have some consensus about Biden’s faith-related messaging, the data says otherwise. Republicans themselves are polarized around this issue, with 33% saying that Biden makes “too little” mention of faith and 20% saying he references his religion “too much.” 

Pew found that Americans know less about Vice President Kamala Harris’ spiritual life than they do about Biden’s. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say they’re “not sure” what her religion is, and only 12% correctly answer that Harris, who is Baptist, is a Protestant.

This question again revealed a gap between Democrats and Republicans. Eighteen percent of Democrats described Harris’ faith accurately compared to 7% of Republicans. Members of the GOP were much more likely than Americans on the left to incorrectly answer that the vice president has “no religion.”

Among religious groups, Black Protestants were the most likely to say that Harris is religious and white evangelicals were the least likely. The same pattern emerged in responses to Pew’s question about Biden’s faith. Researchers note that these differences likely stem from partisanship — white evangelicals are among the Republican Party’s most consistent supporters, while a tremendous majority of Black Protestants throw their weight behind the Democrats. 

Pew’s survey also explored how Catholics feel about politicians with controversial views on hot-button issues receiving communion. In the past, Biden, former presidential candidate John Kerry and other high-profile Democrats have been turned away by priests because of their support for abortion rights, as the Deseret News reported in 2019.

On the whole, the study found that most Catholics believe political leaders’ stances on abortion, homosexuality, the death penalty and immigration should not pose an obstacle to receiving communion. Respondents were most worried about abortion; roughly one-third of American Catholics, overall, said that Catholic politicians who deviate from the church’s stance on abortion should be ineligible for communion — with 49% of Republicans and those who lean right agreeing with the statement and only 15% of Democrats and those who lean left saying the same. 

Party affiliation seems to be a strong predictor for one’s stance on communion access. Fifty-five percent of Catholic Republicans say that Biden should not be able to receive the Eucharist. Eighty-seven percent of Catholic Democrats disagree, saying that he should still be able to take communion.